2020 Ex Voto Gift Guide

Gift-giving — well — picture me at age 7 clutching the Neiman Marcus Book! In later life, I made a series of handmade “knockoffs” of all their over-the-top fantasy gifts.
There is the obligatory, impersonal gift (some people keep a whole room of these)!
There is the really off-the-mark, actually insulting gift – now, hearing stories about those, is truly the greatest gift that you can give me, personally.

Feeling the pressure? Hone that matchmaking eye by giving casual tiny presents year-round.

Unless you know someone extremely well, and exactly the thing they have been pining for (see: online wishlists below), consumables are preferable. Pick something a little nicer than someone may buy for themselves. This can apply to chocolate, candles, pajamas, houseplants (many nurseries will ship!), tea, you name it.
If they are a drinker – pick an unusual bottle from the local spirits shop, with their advice – amaros, brandies, aperitifs & digestifs come with beautiful labels, take pride of place in the home cocktail bar (really a thing, this year), add novelty and experimentation, and ring in under $40.

I’ve also seen a few nice sets of vintage glassware, and those and winter scarves count as consumables, for the record!

As a professional shopper/ designer – I am a nightmare to buy for. Extremely picky, already have too many things, and what I am coveting is often vintage and one-of-a-kind. If you have someone like me in your life – in addition to the other ideas here, I suggest:

Gift Card to a favorite restaurant (also a great 2020 move for our favorite independent small businesses) or local store, if you know where they frequent.

– Ask them for their online wishlist! There’s nothing like getting the exact thing you’ve been eyeing all year.

– There may be something super-useful or practical that doesn’t quite fit their budget (and there’s a lot of belt-tightening this year) – Spotify Premium? Joining your local veggie, seafood or flower CSA? Those gifts are extra sweet since you get them all year!

Experience gifts are welcome too. In isolation it’s even more important to get a change of scene once in a while, if you can avoid crowds. Sculpture gardens and botanic gardens are generally open.

It’s a good time to visit a lot of outdoor attractions that are usually too busy, or places that are offering staggered, timed entry. Memberships (such as Mod/Co which gives entry to over 100 places! – find your local participating museum on this list) also help support your favorite nonprofits, and usually come with fun (and well-designed) swag too.

And finally – ART! It’s not easy to select the exact piece of art that someone will cherish. Sometimes you’ll see it and just know. Otherwise – contact a local artist, and set up a gift certificate at a certain level. Or find an art market, curatorial site or gallery that offers affordable art. There is also always Etsy, though beware of factory-made items shipping from overseas that are now clogging that platform.

Happy gifting! If you have great suggestions to add – email me!

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While this pair is on the luxury side at $77, Wiz Amulets offers a range of affordable, extremely fun living jewelry. They ship!

I always stocked Incienso de Santa Fe in my shop, Ex Voto, and purchase it for my home too. Ringing in at $12-$14.50 – their burners are the cutest, nice enough to leave out, and come with a starter box of their unique incense. But you’ll want to buy a backup sampler too.

Costume designer Dana Embree creates these masks in limited runs from high-end fabrics in New Orleans for her Etsy shop Melpomone and Thalia. I can say from experience, they really brighten an otherwise routine 2020 day.

Penzey’s Spices are family-owned, premium, and have been offering heartfelt letters and specials throughout the T**** administration. Starting at $16, and suited for any home cooks, hot chocolate makers, or grads setting up their first kitchens.

PF Candle has great markdowns – all their scents are appealing and match much more expensive candles. The room sprays and diffusers don’t quite deliver in the way the candles and incense do.

Artist Bunnie Reiss has already sold out of much of her range of bandannas, stickers, postcards and more, but there are still great stocking stuffers and a few splurges to be had!

New Orleans-based chef Houla of Wolf & Swallow creates original snacks & condiments to dress up your home cooking. Gift boxes available, ranging from $20-$50 or ask about custom for your budget!


for the friend who’s been hosting outdoor backyard hangs all year:

This citronella patio candle is 50% off stacked with 30% discount offer this week = $88.

The fire pit is $116 and shipping free this week.

For those who enjoy masculine/unisex products and who have been very very good: Liberty of London’s last remaining Advent Calendar this year at $250.

You can find something personal among Alexis Berger’s exquisite glasswork, though many pieces are one of a kind. As one of her customers says, when she’s not wearing this, she hangs it somewhere she can see and enjoy it! Her mini figa hands start at $100, this one carries a glowing bead at $220.

The top-of-the-line percussive muscle massager Theragun is doing a big Black Friday (available at your local Best Buy too likely for same-day pickup!) – discounts from $25 on this mini (new price $175) to $150 off. Also their CBD products are Buy One Get One. Since in-person massages are still risky – this is a great choice if you have tense or sore people on your splurge list (including yourself).

There are lots of dupes on the market as well, without the triangle handle design – Hypervolt, etc. which likely have their own markdowns, meaning you can find a similar tool for under $150. Beware dodgy or phishing shop sites – the first page of results showed some predatory sites. Buy from an established retail store or directly!

Nieves’s handmade body care line By Nieves definitely ranges from frugal to luxe – a generously-sized set shown here at $100, but her “Dabble Bag” at $20 is a great way to get hooked on her products (and comes with a perfectly tiny hand sanitizer, her “Cloud of Protection” that will put your others to shame…)

It’s so easy to knock out a few gifts at once at Trollbinde – ranging from $40-$400, there’s something for your teenage witch and yourself, all the way to your crones. Her original designs are somehow powerfully tied into Nature, myth and meaning, while wearable for everyday. She’s also offering a selection of Gift Boxes that take 10% off any piece.

Giving Back:

Artist Alex Patrick Dyck / Yoko Snoopy donates part of each sale to indigenous causes. Her custom orders cutoff is Nov. 30 so hurry! Plus, she’s offering a 15% off sale across the board. Perfect for the real bitch with real feelings (or fifteen of us) in your life.

I love memberships as an (often tax-deductible!) experience-gift that pays off all year long. If you’re in or near Brooklyn, a monthly pass to events at Rubulad is a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure. It may be a while until the ecstatic dance parties return, but they are devising distanced haunted houses, etc. in the meantime. One of the great “garbage in, art out” possibility machines! You’ll be grateful to have a Rubulad to go to… in 2021, we hope!